Sanders Beat Polls, Still Has to Beat Clinton
I usually drop off before 9 PM, but I knew I wasn’t going to fall asleep while Bernie Sanders was nursing a slim lead, so I stayed up until AP called Michigan for Sanders at 11:30 or so. I had TPM’s AP link, FiveThirtyEight’s live feed and LisB’s Facebook thread open.
During the reporting phase of the Michigan and other primaries, Nate Silver and Harry Enten took a lot of flak in FiveThirtyEight’s comment feed, which ran along the right side of the screen while Silver, Enten, Carl Bialik, Julia Azari, Aaron Bycoffe, Micah Cohen and others posted their thoughts on the left. Once it seemed clear that Sanders was outperforming the polls, Silver admitted:
I said in our Slack chat today that I had a “gut feeling” that Sanders could beat his polling in Michigan. I also said, for the record, that you should mostly ignore that gut feeling. …
Our demographic model, as opposed to our polling model, suggested that Michigan could be relatively competitive. It had Sanders winning Michigan by 4 in an even national race. The national race isn’t even — instead, Clinton is up by 13 percentage points in our national poll average. But still, that would extrapolate to a high-single-digit or very-low-double-digit win for Clinton, and not the blowout pollsters were expecting. …
So maybe they should be promoting their demographic models? Anyway, the day after, Harry Enten is cogitating about What the Stunning Bernie Sanders Win in Michigan Means:
The question I am asking myself now is whether this means the polls are off in other Midwestern states that are holding open primaries. I’m talking specifically about Illinois and Ohio, both of which vote next Tuesday. The FiveThirtyEight polling average in Illinois gives Clinton a 37 percentage point lead, while the average in Ohio gives her a 20 percentage point lead. If Michigan was just a fluke (which is possible), then tonight will be forgotten soon enough. If, however, pollsters are missing something more fundamental about the electorate, then the Ohio and Illinois primaries could be a lot closer than expected.
If Sanders had won by 15% I would have been elated, but at least I went to sleep somewhat relieved.
I woke up late enough to catch NBC’s Today, which had Chuck Todd providing the media filter about Trump’s and Sanders’s wins. Todd has fallen into many of the same bad habits as the late Tim Russert, but this morning, he said something that made sense: Clinton had better be able to defend herself against Bernie Sanders because Trump is going to come at her with the same sort of outsider attacks. Then I thought, that works both ways.
I have appreciated that Clinton and Sanders have debated policy intelligently without much rancor, but neither will have that luxury against Trump/Christie, or Trump/Cruz, or Trump/Cuban. Sanders had better be able to handle attacks, too. He was obviously a bit stunned when Clinton claimed that he was against the auto bailout while she was for it, and although he recovered his composure, he did not clearly refute it during the debate. He and his staff have to do better at anticipating and defending against attacks.
If Clinton wins the nomination, I’m sure she knows that Trump will stick her with everything from Vince Foster to the Email Server. If Sanders gets to the general, he’d better know that Trump will put Karl Marx’s beard on him at every opportunity, and a lot of stuff that makes no sense but will stick with some voters. As Scott Adams has observed, Trump is adept at identity politicking, and as everyone has observed, Trump obviously doesn’t care about offending his opponents.